In a Biden Administration, Changes for the Military Could Start on Day One

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Doug Emhoff, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden
From left, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Harris, President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage together, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military's transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border -- all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden's presidency.

As soon as he's sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump's executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.

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Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump's controversial military policies.

In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump's executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.

"Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump's unconstitutional transgender military ban," MMAA said. "Every qualified American patriot -- regardless of their gender identity -- should be able to serve."

Trump's surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden's stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.

The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump's "America First" policy will be "whether Biden will move to reverse Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany," said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.

"Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia," Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.

To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.

South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.

Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.

At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.

By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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